Saturday, August 31, 2013

Let's talk jobs

Two things on my mind today about employment:

1) Rep. Steve King's comments about the unemployed are as about offensive as it gets. He compared the jobless to kids in a family who refuse to do chores. The idea that people without jobs are averse to work is a particularly mean argument that aims to demonize the unemployed. It's no surprise, then, that his answer to overcoming the problem is to simply buck up and get a job. Gee, why didn't they think of that before?

There is certainly merit in admonishing people who refuse to work to get their stuff together. But that doesn't describe most people, and applying that to everyone without a job is dismissive and insulting.

2) The fast-food strikes across the nation are being fundamentally misunderstood. In most places where employees are calling for $15 an hour, that's not much above minimum wage — a wage which, in America, is rarely a living standard for anyone. (Even where the wage is the rock-bottom $7.25, double that can still be difficult for families.) The strikers are asking for a living wage for full-time work, which should be a fundamental right. Critics have to make up their minds about this — either we make work pay, or we beef up the assistance programs that must compensate for their needs.

And don't give me any pap about supply and demand. I've been to a McDonald's in Manhattan (also, everywhere else). They had demand out the wazoo. 

"But it's flipping burgers! They're probably just pimply teenagers anyway."

Working fast food was one of the most demanding gigs I've ever had, physically and even emotionally. As I'm sure it was for the single mother beside me, who worked two full-time jobs back-to-back every day so her children could scrape by. So yeah, that argument is moot, and would be irrelevant even if true. If we're going to get into arbitrary value judgments about jobs, we'll have to question a lot of high-paying ones, too. Why no call for that?

Take it away, Mick.

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